|The Church An Extension of Christ
by E.H. Jack Sequeira
When I first began my ministry in the United States, one of the first things I noticed was how far here in the U.S. we had drifted from the blueprint the New Testament outlines regarding how the church is to function. It was not far from the way the Roman Catholic church was functioning the hierarchy versus the laity. This, I believe, is one reason for the spiritual decline we are seeing today. Therefore, if we are to experience the success of the early church at a modern church, one of the great needs is to return to the blueprint of the New Testament.
What is the blueprint? It is what the apostle Paul outlined in our Scripture reading. This outline will be the passage we will be considering in this study of the church as the extension of Christ. Let me start by reading the passage from my New International Version. Ephesians 4:11-16:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare Gods people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The first word in this blueprint that I want you to take note of is the word found in verse 12, prepare, or, as the King James Version puts it, perfecting. The word Paul actually used here is katartismon. It is from this word we have our English word artisan. This word is normally applied to a craftsman, one who works with skill at a specific job building, carpentry, painting, computers, electronics, etc.
A good example of how this word is used in the New Testament is what the gospel writer Matthew recorded in his fourth chapter, describing what Jesus saw the two brothers, James and John, along with their father, Zebedee, doing in regards to their fishing trade. Matthew 4:21:
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them....
What Jesus saw was that these men were mending or preparing their nets. That is to say, they were preparing or equipping themselves for successful fishing. In the same way, Paul tells us that God wants to equip or prepare the saints for successful service. This is how verse 12 of Ephesians 4 reads in my New International Version:
...to prepare Gods people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up....
In other words, shaping up the saints to do what God wants them to accomplish.
According to the apostle Paul, God gives the church four specific gifts in order to shape up the saints for service as well as build them up in Christ. These four gifts, which are recorded in verse 11 of Ephesians 4, are: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers. Let us briefly examine each of these four important gifts.
That task was to define, as well as defend, the truth of the gospel, the good news of salvation Christ had obtained for the entire human race in His earthly mission. Several texts in the New Testament point out to this fact. Some examples are: Ephesians 2:19-21:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with Gods people and members of Gods household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Acts 15:1-2, 6-11:
- Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved. This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
- ...The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.
(The we refers to apostles.) It is extremely important that we pay heed to what the apostles recorded in Scripture concerning the gospel, so that our understanding of the gospel as well as its proclamation be in prefect harmony with what they taught. This includes the Three Angels Message of Revelation 14 which God raised the Advent movement to proclaim in its global mission.
According to 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul is contrasting the prophetic gift with the gift of tongues, you will notice two things about the prophetic gift which must be the basis of our use of the Spirit of Prophesy: (1) the function of the prophetic gift, and (2) to whom this gift applies. 1 Corinthians 14:3 (function) and 22 (application):
But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. ...Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.
We must keep both these in minds when we read Ellen G. White. Her writings are to guide the church (i.e., believers) in Christian living and practice. They are not to take the place of the Bible in defining what truth is, as some unwittingly do.
But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
The gift of an evangelist is given to individuals in the church who are in a special way to proclaim the good news of the gospel to the unchurched. This must be the foundation of all Christian doctrine and practice. I wish all evangelists would keep this in mind.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers....
But the word some is not found before the word teachers. Why is this so? I believe because the phrase pastors and teachers refer to one and the same gift.
A pastor is a teacher. His or her job is to dig into the Word and share with the flock of God every Sabbath the hidden treasure that is to be found in the pages of Scripture. Thus, the primary work of the Pastor is to build up Gods people in Christ. For example, note the counsel Paul gave to the pastors in Ephesus on his final journey to Jerusalem. Acts 20:27-32:
For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
In conclusion, turning back to our Scripture reading, you will notice that all these four gifts have two objectives or purposes in mind: (1) to equip the saints for ministry, and (2) to build the believers up in Christ. Ephesians 4:12-13:
...to prepare Gods people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
When this is realized, the result will be verses 14-16:
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
What a day that will be! May the Holy Spirit shape us all up so that we become a united body who together will work in unison to lift up Christ.